College March Madness News, Who is the First in Line?

The NFL season is winding down, which usually signals that time of year when the sports betting public starts shifting some focus over to college basketball. March Madness beckons less than two months away.
Competition for the 2022-23 title looks as wide open as ever as some usual super powers have dropped. Duke, Michigan State and North Carolina project as mid tier seeds, while Kentucky could miss the field entirely. Villanova is under .500 and will almost certainly not make it.
The tournament field will also lack star power, at least as far as NBA mock drafts are concerned. Generational talent Victor Wembanyama will go number 1, but he plays in France. The consensus second pick, Scoot Henderson, would go tops in most normal seasons, and he plays for G League Ignite. The top projected pick that actually plays in college this year is Cam Whitmore of Villanova, which leaves Alabama’s Brandon Miller as the best projected NBA player on a team that will certainly head to March Madness, and almost definitely as a very high seed.
Here are the favorites to cut down the nets this season, odds courtesy of BetMGM.
  • Houston +600
  • Kansas +1000
  • Alabama +1000
  • Purdue +1000
  • UCLA +1200
  • Arizona +!400
  • Tennessee +1400
  • Gonzaga +1600
  • Connecticut +1800
  • Baylor +2200
  • Texas +2200
  • Virginia +2200
  • North Carolina +2500
  • Duke +3000
  • Kentucky +3000
  • Arkansas +3000
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For anyone just tuning into 2023 college hoops, here are a few notes from the season so far.
Alabama is a basketball school, the SEC is now known for hoops?
Yes on the first part, kind of. Bama ranks fourth on KenPom and 3rd in NET rating vs all the way down at fifth in the final College Football Playoff poll. They have gone 5-2 in Quad 1 games (home game vs team in the NET top 30, neutral site game vs NET top 50 or road game vs NET top 75). Their only losses on the season are vs UConn in Portland and vs Gonzaga in Birmingham (not really considered a neutral site). They pace the SEC at 6-0 and are the money favorites to hold on to the regular season title as BetMGM has them at -225. Brandon Miller ranks sixth in KenPom’s “Player of the Year” rater and has the sixth lowest odds to win the Wooden Award at +1400 as per BetMGM.
As to the second part, the SEC is still a football league as evidenced among other things by Georgia taking home two straight titles. But the SEC has become a super tough hoops league, at least at the top, and that is true even with Kentucky mired in a down year. Tennessee ranks second on both KenPom and NET and projects as a two-seed according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. They do have a “bad” conference loss, at home to Kentucky, but are near Bama with +160 odds to take the conference.
Three other SEC schools are the current Lunardi brackets. Auburn (15th KenPom, 21st NET) projects as a 6th seed, as does Arkansas (22nd KenPom, 27th NET). Upstart surprise Missouri (54th KenPom, 49th NET) is currently slotted as a 9th seed, but in a little precarious position as they are 3-4 in Quad 1 games. They need to tread water there in the SEC to keep their slot. Kentucky still carries +3000 odds to win the title, but sit in Lunardi’s First Four out thanks to going 1-5 in Quad 1. Texas A&M is on the tournament fringe as well thanks to a 6-0 start in the SEC.
Drew Timme has played at Gonzaga with two generations of Stocktons
It is only Timme’s fourth year in school, it only seems like he has played at Gonzaga forever. He is a big part of the “Year of the Big Man” in college hoops. Thanks to a combination of the NBA’s big emphasis on outside shooting and the ability of college athletes to earn Name Image Likeness (NIL) money, many prominent players choose to stay in school now. That list includes Timme, reigning Wooden Award winner Oscar Tshiebwe, Hunter Dickinson, Zack Edey and Azuolas Tubelis. They are all “bigs” that project outside the first round of the NBA draft and might be looking at two-way NBA contracts, G-League or playing overseas. Why not just stay on campus, star, earn real money and perhaps take home the Wooden? Here are the favorites at BetMGM
  • Edey -350
  • Jalen Wilson +800
  • Tubelis +1200
  • Timme +1400
  • Tshiebwe +1400
  • Miller +1400
  • Kris Murray +1800
The Big 12 Rules All
KenPom rates every conference based essentially on how a team expected to go .500 in each conference would rank vs the .500 team in every other conference. The Big 12 rates highest by this metric as the theoretical .500 team is roughly two points better than the theoretical .500 team in the Big Ten, the second ranked conference.
It is more a reflection of the league’s balance and depth than the upside as the best team is defending national champ Kansas, and they rank “only” seventh in KenPom and sixth in NET. Interestingly the top ranked team in both, Houston, will join the Big 12 next year.
The Lunardi brackets project that seven of the ten teams in the Big 12 will make the tournament, with West Virginia lurking in the “First Four Out”. Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State tie for the conference lead currently at 5-1, but the oddsmakers give the big edge to Kansas as BetMGM prices them at -145 to take the title. K-State beat the Jayhawks this week, but sit as second favorite at +500.
It all sets up as a super fun run-in nationwide to a wide open March Madness.